Bob Shallit

Sacramento food delivery company turns on the jets

FoodJets ‘pilot’ Kyle McAdams in one of the company’s Prius cars. All are wrapped with the company logo and sport an illuminated jet tail section on the roof.
FoodJets ‘pilot’ Kyle McAdams in one of the company’s Prius cars. All are wrapped with the company logo and sport an illuminated jet tail section on the roof. Rachel Valley

A Sacramento veteran of the meal-delivery business is bringing a supersonic new spin to the notion of fast food.

Darren McAdams, who founded Food To You here in 1993, has just launched a side business called FoodJets.

While his original company gets restaurant meals to customers in an hour or so, FoodJets usually does it in less than 10 minutes.

And, McAdams said, “we’ve had hundreds of deliveries under 1 minute.”

One minute? The new firm does that by ordering meals in advance from select Sacramento restaurants for lunch and again later in the day for dinner. It packages them at a north Sacramento warehouse, then loads them into tricked-out company cars that have been modified to include coolers and hot packs.

The drivers – “pilots” in FoodJet parlance – then circle around town, like planes in a holding pattern, until they receive an order via the company’s mobile phone app.

The 1-minute deliveries happen when drivers receive a bunch of orders in a small area, like Capitol Mall, for example. Deliveries are made at the curb, McAdams said, after customers receive a phone message that spoofs an airline pilot’s message, chimes included, that the driver has been “cleared for landing.”

“Please make your way to the curb. And thank you for dining with FoodJets,” it says.

McAdams said he wondered at first whether meals would stay fresh while being kept heated (or cooled) in a car for up to three hours.

So far, he said, “we’re getting high marks on the food,” noting that Indian, Thai, barbecue and other specials typically included in the limited daily menu offerings actually get better with a little marination time.

“The flavors all come together,” he said.

McAdams said he decided to start the new service after taking a hard look at Food To You, which now operates in six states, and at other meal delivery companies like Caviar and Postmates. All forward orders they’ve received to participating restaurants, then pick up the food after it’s prepared and deliver it to customers.

I know I’m throwing my own company under the bus. We’re all slow.

FoodJets founder Darren McAdams, on traditional food delivery firms, including his own older business

“I saw that deliveries were taking way too long,” he said, noting that consumers are seeking – and getting – lightning-fast deliveries of everything in today’s Amazon-inspired economy. He also concluded that traditional food delivery service is too expensive because customers often pay service fees and “inflated” menu prices along with tips.

At FoodJet, meals – including barbecued tri-tip and chicken tikka masala on a recent evening – all are priced under $10 and are charged automatically to a credit card, Uber-style, when orders are made. There are no additional charges, besides taxes, and tipping is optional.

In the first two months since the service started, FoodJets has delivered nearly 10,000 meals in a service area that includes downtown, midtown, East Sacramento, Land Park, Natomas and the Arden area.

Plans call for adding Roseville, Elk Grove, Citrus Heights and Folsom in coming months. Then the goal is to take the idea to new cities across the country.

“This is just our testing ground,” McAdams said of the Sacramento market.

Is the company profitable yet?

“Oh, no,” McAdams said with a laugh. “We’re losing our butts.”

But he sees that changing as new areas are added and volumes increase. Ten new Toyota Prius hybrids are on order to add to the 10 existing ones – all of them wrapped with the company logo and adorned with orange wings on the sides and illuminated Learjet-type tail sections on roofs.

“People think they’re hysterical,” McAdams said of the cars. But that’s not the company’s real cool factor, according to the entrepreneur.

“It’s all about the speed,” he said.